Parents address countless details during a divorce, but none are more important than drafting a workable parenting plan. Custody encompasses the legal rights and important life decisions related to the children’s upbringing. A parenting plan, on the other hand, is a schedule that is ideally worked out between the parents that determines the details of how and when they see the children.
Balancing the family’s needs
The goal of an effective parenting plan is to foster the care and growth of the child. The children should be the priority, but parents lead busy lives, so there needs to be consideration of employment obligations and general availability to determine what works best for the children and the family.
Common details to address
The needs of each family are unique, so there is no one-size-fits-all parenting plan. Some important details to address include:
- Where the children will live: The parents may have joint custody, but spend much of their time in one home. This can be split up by weekdays in one house and weekends in the other, alternating blocks of days, or summers in one home.
- Holiday schedule: This determines where the kids spend major holidays, birthdays, vacations, and special family events. The holidays are typically alternated by year.
- Grandparents and extended family: Parents should agree on how to handle access by grandparents, family friends and other important figures.
- Addressing issues: There should be protocols for making temporary or permanent changes or resolving disputes. Ideally, this can be done by drafting modification rather than litigating in court.
Plans may also involve day-to-day scheduling if the parents actively coparent on an ongoing basis — perhaps dad picks up the kids from school on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The schedule should also include who picks up and who drops off; ideally, the burden of this should be shared equally or equitably within reason.
Flexibility is the key
Parents may not have been the best of spouses, but it is in the best interests of the family to set aside grudges and commit to a strong working relationship. Cooperation makes the difficult job of parenting easier and healthier for the children. Flexibility will also be necessary as issues arise or changes need to be made to the agreement.
Legal help is key
The parents serve the family when they come up with a workable parenting plan, but guidance from an experienced family can be a tremendous asset. These legal professionals have experience creating all types of plans and putting them in writing. They can also protect parental rights and enforce them if the need arises.